Do you know how brilliant you are?


This is the wall in my office. You can only see a snippet here, but on the right is a bulletin board where I hang all the notes, cards, and letters I receive throughout the year. I turn them inside out so I can see the writing and who sent it. At the end of the year, I spend a couple hours going through and re-reading each before tucking them away in a box.

These cards mean so much to me. Not just because you thought to send them or because you took the time to think of me, slow down, and write with pen and paper as opposed to an email. They matter to me because they are my mirror.

We don't always see who we are clearly. We see ourselves through our lens which often comes muddied with stories and shame. There is good stuff in there too. Great stuff! But we like to zero in on what isn't working, where we don't feel expanded, how we don't feel like "enough."

Then, like clockwork, when I need it the most, one of these little gems arrives in my mailbox. It's a ritual in keeping an honest scope of myself and my work. And every year, it fills.

No matter how many notes I receive, I still grapple with doubt. Don't get me wrong, I would prefer to ease through my job without going through the inevitable doubt cycle that creeps up when I create something new, have a radical new idea, want to share something deeply personal... the list goes on.

Last year I created The People First Project. I ran it twice (it's coming back in March!) and had the opportunity to coach 60 people. In these 60 conversations I found ONE common thread—or maybe it's a common truth? It came wrapped up in plenty of different phrases, such as:

"I just want to feel confident in my direction."
"I want to trust myself."
"I want to know what I am doing and trust it!"
"I don't want to feel bad for my ideas and dreams."
"Will people actually want what I have to offer?"
"Who am I to do this amazing thing?"

From the project, I collected over 60 questionnaires and 3,600 minutes of coaching recorded that all captured one truth.

Am I allowed?

Am I allowed to succeed?
Am I allowed to be bold and courageous?
Am I allowed to charge for this?
Am I allowed to speak up?
Am I allowed... to be myself, be seen, be heard, and still belong?

The short answer? Yes. So then why doesn't this answer ever suffice? And even more, why are we asking this and feeling this way?

Every time a card arrives in the mail the first thing I think after opening it is, "I am allowed..." Every. Single. Time. So you see, I am not exempt, but I am deeply curious about this.

How many of us feel this way? What do we have in common? Why are we compelled to continue looking for validation that we belong in the spaces we're drawn to? And so the questions pile up.

I am super biased in this, but I think I work with the most amazing people on the planet. They are heart-driven, service-oriented, creative, resourceful, kind, and compassionate. They choose business or leadership because it can mean more reach and more freedom.

Yet, so many of us are getting tangled up in things we aren't prepared for. Things like self-doubt, excessive criticism, and fear. Before we know it, not only are we not having more reach and more freedom, we're also steeped in believing we aren't allowed to.

I want to wrap every single one of you up who feels this way and remind you that you're not alone. That at every turn that stretches you or cracks you that much more open, you will also discover a litany of uncertainty. When I looked up another word for "fear," I found this word: chickenheartedness.

Are we chicken for getting scared? For doubting ourselves? For needing constant validation?

- OR -

Are we trying to do something that hasn't been done before?

What if it's a sign that what you're about to embark on is important and comes from a part of you that is meant to give unconditionally? What if it's an indication that you're on the right path? What if it's a sign your heart is leading, and this isn't chickenheartedness but wholeheartedness?

And if this is the case, then maybe we aren't supposed to spend all of our energy trying to outrun, release, or let go of our tangle of doubts but hold onto it and let it guide the way. We automatically assume feeling bad is bad. It isn't.

It's illuminating the fact that you care a f*&k-ton about what you're doing. Trust me, if it were easy or without struggle we wouldn't care as much when we DO succeed. We wouldn't be grateful or humble. We would just be successful. But the age of success for success' sake is coming to a close.

I invite you to consider this quote:

"The awakened heroine becomes the best she can be to contribute what only she can to realizing human potential."

Guess how you wake up? Painfully. There is no awakening without grit. You won't find it and if you do I wouldn't trust it. Your best work is a demonstration of what we are capable of. We have to choose differently. We have to absorb not feeling like enough and be humbled by it AND get up every day and continue to put it all on the line.

Before you go asking for proof that you can do this, be this, say this... stop. Instead, remind yourself what is actually on the line if you don't. If it's your reach, your bank account, your fame I guarantee you aren't thinking wholehearted enough. Bolstering your success is easy. Defending another's is the real risk.

Isn't this why it's so scary? And why we don't feel like we're allowed? Because who are we to believe we can solve, serve, help this planet of ours? Let alone how big a responsibility this is!

And it's sometimes the bigness that makes us ask the inevitable question, "Am I allowed?" You know how I know? Those who aren't called to serve don't even know this is a question that follows us around...

Be proud of this question. It will always point you in the right direction. A messy, gritty, wholehearted direction.

Andrea Wilborn